Summer is Coming

This is the time of year I both look forward to and simultaneously dread.

 

Am I the only one? 

 

It seems like my TO-DO list always has 10,000 things on it and some of it gets done but it never completely goes away.  When you pile no more school, nice weather, a teenagers social engagements and archery season it already feels overwhelming.

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For us, this is added on top of fighting with the Veterans Administration to complete a claim, trying to find a public servant that feels like taking up our cause, getting an advocate to shuffle us to the top of the every growing mound of cases and trying to navigate the VA healthcare system as a Caregiver, it’s downright maddening.

 

So how do you program in time for the good stuff?

 

I am trying to make a habit this month of carrying the magazines and books with them every where I go.  I put this stuff off but it’s truly on of my favorite escapes and who needs that more than me?  That’s right, ALL OF US.  In doing so, when appointments go from “real quick labs” to “waiting room hell for an hour” I have found that I am actually getting through some of them and it makes me happy!

 

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I started my seeds directly in the garden this year.  It is a bit more risky but it seemed like to me if it worked, it would be a lot easier in the long run.  While I still have mulch to put down and soaker hoses to run, I am on my way and oh yeah, I am getting some sun and fresh air along the way.  As difficult as it is to take time for anything, I finally figured out that I could do some of the work, a little at a time, when I take the dog out.  She has to go out any way so why not multi task? IMG_0186

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s next?

This summer we have archery trips, a teenager getting a learner’s permit, SAT classes, camp and maybe a fun trip.  There will be house projects to finish and new things to learn.  I am already tired.

 

What will you guys be doing this summer?  How do you program in stuff just for you?  What is your favorite escape?

Managed Chaos

Probably the best part of attending any training class is simply the fact that it validates the struggle. You are not alone as a caregiver and hopefully you have someone to support you in that.  I also learn about new stuff and that is never a bad thing.  I try to share new things when I find them and there have been a couple of things that have helped recently I wanted to let you guys know about.

CAREZONE – This is an awesome app that has allowed me to put my Warrior in control of more of what is happening. This sends messages for medication times and he has to swipe and check off which one he has taken. Before we were in a position of me following up three times a day, almost always there was one dose missed and then the after effects of the missed meds. Now, he actually is remembering because he knows he will get a prompt. How cool is that? I still check in every few days but for the most part he is taking it on time and sometimes before the alarm goes off.   Its super easy to load the meds in and I am sure it does more than what we are using it for at the moment. I will let you know about future uses of the app that I use!

CHOPRA CENTER MEDITATION – Meditation is a great way to relieve the stress that the day hands you. I know that there are tons of places to get meditations and music but this is where I come back to every quarter. Deepak teams up with Oprah every quarter to do a new series of guided meditations geared towards a specific goal. These are free and delivered to your email daily for 21 days. This way you can potentially create the habit of meditation that you return to even after the series is done. The next one up is Manifesting True Success and I am already signed up. I wish I could remember to sit down every day and meditate but that doesn’t always happen. This is a manageable commitment once a quarter that adds substantially to my life. What’s better than that?

WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT – If you aren’t signed up for WWP, you should be. The offer a great deal for Warriors and more now, things that spouses and/or kids can attend. Recently in our area they have been offering cooking classes. It doesn’t sound like that big a deal but my Warrior and I have really begun to enjoy a regular date night and these are activities that we wouldn’t normally be able to afford otherwise. Look them up, sign up, and attend! The more that you show up, the more that they will reach out to us. Time off to not worry about things for even a couple of hours is the most priceless therapy I could ever imagine.

I am sure that there are other things that I should be adding but this is what has come up for us this week. What are some useful tools you have? How do you manage stress? What do you do for date night?

New Year Intentions

On my personal blog, I have been writing about New Year “resolutions” for years.  Actually, it’s more my lack of resolutions.  I don’t really think I have ever met someone who made a resolution that they kept.  I am sure that someone does or maybe its one of the biggest urban myths in existence.  Either way, I began to do list of “intentions” at the beginning of each year.  Doesn’t intending to do something sound radically different from resolving to try to do something?  As Yoda says:

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

While I haven’t completed my list of intentions for 2015, one of them is to live more in the present.  I think it is easy to get bogged down in appointments, drama, sleep deprivation and obligation and there is a general lack of any spontaneity or FUN.  As I mentioned in my last theme park post, sometimes doing something out of the ordinary works out far better than expected.  Want an example?  We had a couple of mandatory road trips this week that would take us through Louisiana on I-10 this month.  We take the I-12 portion through Baton Rouge because it is supposed to be faster but for us it ends up being congested, angry and short on facilities.  It is by far the most stressful and miserable part of the trip, every time!  Because all of us have wanted to visit New Orleans for many years but some how never found the way to do so, I asked everyone, why not pit stop in New Orleans?  I mean we are going to get food and coffee some where, why not do it there?

There was really no reason not to.

Cafe Du Monde has been on everyone’s bucket list for several years, mostly because of its frequent appearance in movies/TV shows, but also because the incredible history it has with the city.  Out of the four times we went through this past week, we went to the Cafe three times.  (The fourth one was completely derailed buy the Rock & Roll Marathon street blockages but we DID try.)

 

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It was delicious food and a completely charming city.  Each time, we walked a little bit further, found a few more things we wanted to do next time and ended up deciding we MUST plan a family trip to NOLA.  Had we stayed on a rigid idea of what can and cannot be done, we would have never known how much we would love it.  Each time we were at the Cafe, we were eating and back out of the city within 45 minutes…not much longer than a regular pit stop but this was one with so much more character!

It was pretty eye-opening…

We set the intention for this year that we will try to plan a city pit stop in each area we go through.  There is so much out there that we are missing when we don’t slow down.  Instead of existing in a blur, we now have a new memory and a desire to explore a city not too far from us.  What’s better than that?

If you are interested in the kind of lists I do for the beginning of year intentions, you can check some of them out HERE.

What are your intentions this year?

What are you looking forward to most?

 

 

North Florida/South Georgia Caregivers!

There are upcoming caregiver classes that are being held in Tallahassee if you are interested.  The caregiver office indicated you DO NOT have to be a registered caregiver to attend so please contact Bina and let her know you would like to attend!  I will be there for both classes if anyone has questions or needs anything that I can help with, I am happy to help.

Here is the flyer if you would like to download it =>  Tallahassee 2015 class

The details are as follows:

Course 1: Managing Stress

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

9:00am – 12:00pm

Caregivers will learn a five step approach to problem solving and utilize this approach to address a current problem. Principles of effective communication and techniques such as “I” Messages and Empathic Listening will be presented and practiced in class.

Course 2: Problem Solving & Effective Communication

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

1:00pm – 4:00pm

Caregivers will identify both internal and external sources of stress in their lives and how negative self-talk and unrealistic expectations can contribute to stress. Stress management techniques such as massage, deep breathing, meditation and journaling will be presented. Caregivers will practice these techniques and develop a personal action plan for stress management.

 

LOCATION:

Quality Inn and Suites

2020 Apalachee Pkwy

Tallahassee, FL

 

Please email or call me to register. Thanks!

Bina Patel, LCSW

Clinical Social Worker

Caregiver Support Program

352-376-1611 ext 4751

 

I hope to see you there!

I Lived

Coming back from vacation this week I heard this One Republic song and I became a little overwhelmed. For whatever reason, that day, I felt like it was really speaking to me, to all of you, Warriors and Caregivers. Life can be hard and it can be a struggle sometimes to keep our heads up and our eyes open. My goal for the new year is to laugh more and seek out more experiences that add to the health of my soul and that of my family. It is really about that, right? It’s the experiences, not the stuff, that equals a life.

Here is to hoping you own every second!

Happy New Year!

 

“I Lived”
by One Republic

[Verse 1]
Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wallHope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stayHope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Verse 2]
Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Bridge]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Outro]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh

Have a listen, and a sob, HERE.

HOW TO THEME PARK WITH A WARRIOR

Going to a theme park at Christmas seems like a crazy idea, right?

But think about it…

Many of you have told me stories about how difficult the holidays can be in your households. When you combine family of origin drama, wartime trauma and the stress that comes with the preparation and presentation, MOST holidays can just be too overwhelming for anyone. The fact that Warriors have issue during the holidays is something a caregiver accepts and understands it may always be that way.

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This year around September, we received an unexpected message through Operation Homefront. There was an owner of a condo in Orlando that wanted to donate a week there to a Veteran’s family, were we interested? It took about 30 seconds of conversation to say YES. We had not yet been able to explore any part of Orlando since moving to Florida a year and a half prior to that and our youngest had one mission, and one mission only: The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. Knowing that the price of three meals a day and a week at a hotel was completely impossible for a disabled Warrior family, this became the first time that we thought we could do something like this for the last monkey still at home.

Then the planning begins!

I knew where we wanted to go and after figuring out the ends and out of how that would work, we settled on two park annual passes through Universal Studios Orlando. Visiting just twice in a year pays for them and they have an extended pay plan where you pay a down payment then small monthly payments to have an annual pass. (We chose Premiere Passes.) This pass is also good across the park for a discount on literally anything you purchase so there was an additional cost saving in doing so. After that, I scoured the internet for insider blogs on how and when to attach the various areas. An indispensable resource for us was the Orlando Informer. Time and time again, the information I needed always seemed return me to links on their site. They have GREAT background information on the two separate areas for the Harry Potter experience and their crowd calendar was fantastic. We planned over the course of the week what we wanted to do most, assigned them days and ranked them. As it happened, you can see displayed in multiple areas of the park wait times for a variety of popular rides so it was easy to adjust the schedule when a window of opportunity popped up.

IMG_2512Oh man the crowds!

Despite all my recon, there was no way to anticipate what days were going to be full on bumping into each other days versus plenty of room to roam. I thought Christmas Day would be the light day, WRONG. It was actually Christmas Eve that afforded us the lightest crowd. I wasn’t sure how my Warrior would take the situation, you can never really predict, but especially because our last theme park visit was a radically different situation. We ended up spending four days at Universal, can you believe that? There were also a great deal of lessons we learned that I would like to pass on!

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WHAT I LEARNED ON MY WAY TO THE ROLLER COASTER

 

  1. Plan, plan, plan. Know what park you are going to, look at maps, rides, reviews and know what is your optimum day/time to visit for the easiest visit on the Warrior that has difficulty with crowds.
  2. Keep an eye on the Warrior. They may not be the best judge in stressful situations of when they need a break or need to step to the side/alley/bench and get out of the thick of it for a bit. At Universal, this was generally Butterbeer time.
  3. Stay occupied. Notice the details, talk about them with the Warrior, and carry on conversation. Often what they need is less of an “ARE YOU OKAY?” and more of a “hey check that cool thing out over there.”
  4. An AWESOME idea that we saw of some families waiting in long lines for rides doing was playing games. Most popular was the Heads Up app from Ellen.   This borders on brilliant in terms of being able to keep everyone’s mind off of things.
  5. Know your limits. If you are crabby after a couple of hours of walking, make sure you eat something. Chances are that if your blood sugar is dropping, so is the kiddos and the Warriors. This can spell disaster.
  6. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. While a plan is great, you can sometimes miss great opportunities by trying to be too rigid. If something looks fun, tasty, interesting, stop and have the experience. It’s about the experience and you should really immerse yourself in it, no matter how long you will be there.
  7. Be flexible. I didn’t buy tickets to anything else because I wasn’t sure what everyone would want to do. One day we were there super early, another we went late in the day and yet another midday. It turned out to us, early was best so we know that for next time. Even though crowds were kind of crazy, we stayed a whopping 6 ½ hours one day!
  8. Look for deals. This is likely the biggest way to reduce the stress for your Warrior. Make a daily budget, stick to it and use coupons, discounts and thrifty shopping. A great idea we had for the kiddo was to put her in charge of her spending money. She had a budget for the trip and we gave it all to her. When it was in cash form, suddenly the idea of giving it up was harder. (Sometimes when parents swipe with plastic all day, they have a hard time visualizing how much things cost.) Instead of coming home with things that would be discarded in a couple of months, she made very thoughtful purchases of items that would recall her favorite memories of the week. It was a fantastic thing to watch.
  9. Consider where you stay. We were lucky to have a week donated to us but without the kitchen option, we would not have been able to afford to do this trip. Look for kitchenettes where you can take your precooked items to your room for dinners in the room. Some chains have free breakfast and great rewards programs that let you accumulate points for free rooms. Think about that when choosing a place and sign up in advance if you haven’t already.  Don’t forget there are great resorts that offer certain packages to Veterans like this and this.
  10. Remember to have FUN! It won’t always be perfect but you have the opportunity to do things out of your comfort zone. Multiple times during the trip my Warrior took the time to utilize techniques from his 12-week workshop that allowed him to talk himself down on his own. It was fantastic progress to witness.

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You CAN do this! Don’t stick to old traditions that make everyone unhappy in the end. Sometimes mixing it up a little is exactly what every one needed!  Caregivers get stuck in not changing things at all for fear of what will happen.  Sometimes seeing the look on the face of a kiddo who is beside themselves with joy is exactly what a Warrior needs!

 

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